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Dragonfly: NASA And The Crisis Aboard Mir Hardcover – November 2, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (November 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887307833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887307836
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Bryan Burrough, coauthor of the bestselling Barbarians at the Gate, has a talent for reworking factual accounts so they read like first-rate thrillers. Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir is overwhelming in its scope and breadth of detail, culled from one-on-one interviews and transcripts of recorded conversations between the astronauts and cosmonauts on Mir and Russian Mission Control. Burrough delves deeply into the personal and professional lives of the 11 people who lived aboard Mir from 1995 to 1998. What we soon discover is simultaneously disheartening and fascinating: the men and women who would be astronauts must run a gauntlet of hazings, are judged professionally on their personal lives, and win flight assignments through serendipity as often as through hard work. NASA is controlled by cliques and cults of personality: "People don't speak out, because George makes short work of you if you do.... If you get on his bad side, you won't get a flight assignment...." There are "issues dealing with training and the selection of crews that you don't dare speak up about." The down-to-the-last-bolt descriptions of life aboard the station, from what the air smells like to an explanation of "penguin suits" to the distance between the dinner table and the original, now seldom-used toilet--2 feet--will thrill space enthusiasts. Space may not be "where no man has gone before" anymore, but it nevertheless provides endless dream fodder for those of us left behind on Earth. --Jhana Bach

From Library Journal

Enthusiasts who followed the 1997 crises aboard Mir, an orbiting Russian space station, knew of the many mishaps. Dragonfly is a timely retelling of what transpired when American astronauts joined the Russians on Mir, as well as their background, training, and personalities. The Americans realized too late that they knew little about the outpost's inner workings: its fluctuating temperatures, antifreeze-like pollution, oxygen depletion, repeated threat of power failure, etc. Some of this may exasperate a listener expecting adventure; a dangerous fire, a near-collision, and an actual crash with a spaceship supply the main suspense. Brian Murray, a skilled actor, cues a quote from any Russian by switching to a gruff accent. This set is recommended for popular collections where an interest in space exploration is high.AGordon Blackwell, Rochester, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the author of three previous books.

Customer Reviews

I read the bulk of this book on a flight to Italy, and wished the flight was longer.
Mitch Reed
The author's narrative and reconstructed dialogue are well written, and he always allows the story and the people, rather than commentaries, to propel the book.
Christopher Nieman
I read in despair about how everyone must act like a little girl if they want to fly into space.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Nieman on January 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Brian Burrough's DRAGONFLY covers the entire "Phase One" program to put NASA astronauts aboard the Russian space station Mir in the mid 1990s. The project was fraught with problems and near-disasters, and it is an example of how not to conduct an international space partnership, or any other project, for that matter.
The book is well researched, and Burrough is not afraid to delve into the dark waters of NASA's bureaucracy to round out the story. He dug deep to interview many of the significant figures of the book, including the likes of astronaut Jerry Linenger, Phase One director Frank Culbertson, NASA administrator Dan Goldin, and NASA's Johnson Space Center director George Abbey. Almost no one comes off unsoiled, and yet the author treats each subject fairly. Burrough makes extensive use of American and Russian flight transcripts, and he takes care to document the stressful lives of Russian cosmonauts, who are severely overworked and underappreciated. The author's narrative and reconstructed dialogue are well written, and he always allows the story and the people, rather than commentaries, to propel the book. I think Burrough achieves a good balance in presenting the material, which must have been difficult given the myriad personalities and politics involved.
However, I was disappointed in the choppy layout of DRAGONFLY's major sections. Burrough takes a hundred pages to outline the beginnings of Phase One and its troubles from 1992 to 1997 ... the problem is, this critical background is actually Part Two, and it appears in the middle of the book, which interrupts the tumultuous events of 1997. By that point, this section does the reader little good, because we are already up to our ears in Phase One's trials and tribulations.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "rrr338" on January 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What sets "Dragonfly" off from so many other books about space exploration is that the author understands that technology, unlike space, does not exist in a vaccuum. Like few other authors on the subject, Burrough realizes that complex technical systems, like Mir, interact with the variables of human personality, cultural background of the astronauts/cosmonauts, and indeed, the 'culture' which imbues organizations like Nasa and Energia.
This book is totally absorbing, and I agree completely with the comment that it makes the reader feel, at times, as though he or she is actually aboard the Mir. In fact,"Dragonfly" should be required reading for ALL personnel who will be involved with the International Space Station. The author is right on target when he predicts that such a project will experience inevitable crises, and that how these are responded to will depend as much upon *human* as technological understanding.
Finally, I must put in the supportive words for cosmonauts Tsibliyev and Lazutkin. These cosomonauts were heroes, facing and overcoming difficulties much greater than those encountered by Glenn and Gagarin. They deserved far better treatment upon return from Mir than being blamed for circumstances beyond their control. This book shows how much courage and ingenuity these men really had -- and that their safe return to earth and the saving of the Mir was due to their brave efforts. After reading "Dragonfly," I have the deepest respect for the leadership of Tsibliyev and Lazutkin. I hope they are given a chance to go to the new ISS -- their experience would be invaluable!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin W. Parker on February 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Some books about the space program are straightforward histories (Burrows' This New Ocean), others get more personal but tend to be a bit on the rah-rah side (Chaikin's A Man on the Moon), but a few really peel the cover off and show some of the ugliness beneath. This is one of those and possibly one of the most brutal books about the space program since the ones about the Challenger disaster.
I'm not saying this is the best possible approach, but it does provide a counterpoint to the coverage that tends to put NASA above criticism.
Burrough contends that the entire Mir program was as much politics as practicality: an effort to engage the Russians and to end the mistrust held over from the Cold War. While a worthy cause, this attitude tended to brush aside any pragmatic concerns such as the astronauts' safety while on board Mir.
The coverage itself is largely chronological if someone out of order: it begins with Jerry Linenger's stint onboard Mir in early 1997, which includes the onboard fire, backs up to the development of the program and the first astronauts to go up, then concludes with Michael Foale's tour of duty in mid-1997 and the near-disastrous collision with the Progress supply craft. (I don't know why most books these days seem unable to maintain a straightforward chronology--I find the alternatives more confusing than helpful.)
Anyhow, the book is largely a detailed story of what went on during each period of time, though with background and personality profiles interspersed. The profiles are particularly biting: Jerry Linenger is depicted with a total "what's in it for me?
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